Yeah, Yeah, Don’t worry. The Deal Is Happening!
Ahhhh….Wait. There’s a delay.
How good is your sales leadership?
Would you like to reduce your cost of sale? Or maybe improve close percentages?
Have you ever had a rep come to you at the 11th hour telling you that a ‘for sure deal’ is delayed because there is another stakeholder on the Buying Side that needs to be convinced?
Why does it happen?
More often than not, it’s because we are about to enter into a Transitional Sales Cycle.
A transitional sales cycle a sales cycle within the sales cycle. At best it occurs concurrently while you are managing your traditional / actual sales cycle. At worst it occurs when you least expect it and when you can least afford it.
A transitional sales cycle is a separate sales cycle that occurs when somebody in the buying organization, steps up and declares that they have concerns that have not yet been satisfied.
Early in my career this happened to me. I was working my first significant deal with a company I had joined 3 months prior. My coach in the buying organization told me that she was awarding us the deal. She told me what day she was presenting her decision…our contract would be signed that day. So, I did what you might expect; I hovered around the fax and stared at it until it rang (yeah…this was a while ago. We were still doing business by fax). Well, true to her word, the fax rang, the header was from my prospect. Only thing…the fax spit out a 12 page list of questions coming from the IT department!
It took another 3 months and we essentially repeated the entire sales cycle. IT needed to be convinced, and they also wanted to send everybody a message that they had power. The cost of sale on that deal was TWICE what it should have been.
Transitional sales cycles are often ‘launched’ by people / areas that are not able to say ‘yes’ to your deal, but they can say ‘no’, or ‘not yet’. They are not always the ‘usual suspects’ that can get in the way of a deal.
Why do they happen?
Usually one area of a prospect organization initiates a project to investigate a purchase. And, most often, more than one person is involved in the evaluation, decision and buying process. This means that more than one area of the organization is involved. But, buying organizations don’t usually bring everybody to the project from the beginning – resources are always scarce and buying companies will allocate resources as needed. Also, it is important to realize that not all companies are entirely organized – things happen that are unexpected. AND, it is also important to realize that many – if not most – companies do not have great communication.
Actually, even if your prospect is perfect in all of these areas, the fact is that as your sales cycle moves along, you will eventu
ally reach the second phase of the buying / selling cycle and the prospect will introduce new people and new needs to the process. This happens naturally because the prospect will begin to dig deeper into their needs, and your solution(s).
There are different levels of ownership in every organization. There are different functional areas and different roles. There are some areas of the organization that have a problem. There are some areas of the organization that are the cause of that problem. There are areas of the organization that are responsible for finding a solution. Some areas will do none of that, but will be responsible for managing the solution when it is purchased. Each of those groups will have something to say about what they buy.
It’s our job to take sales leadership to the next level and make sure that we go looking for them from the very first conversation with that prospect. If we discover them early, then we can handle them on our terms. If we wait until they ‘happen to us’, then they add time and effort to our sales cycle and they increase our risk, and our cost of sale.
How To Deal With Them?
- Go looking for them. Day one.
- Be diligent with understanding the buying organization, who are the stakeholders and the buying constituents, what does the customer’s buying process look like? Who is involved and what role do they play in the decision process…..?
- If you ask “who’s decision is this” and the customer says “It’s mine”, don’t be satisfied with that. Ask, “Will Finance and Admin need to be involved in raising the P.O? Will I.T Need to be involved to confirm technology standards? Will Materials Management or the contracts department need to see the agreement?”. “Who are the end users”? “Who owns the current system”? It seems obvious that we should ask these questions, but most often, we don’t.
Then, once we’ve understood who is involved on the buying side, handle their needs concurrently; don’t single thread the selling activities and don’t hold up one for the other. Once you’ve gotten through the transitional sales cycle successfully, flow straight back into the actual sales cycle.
Find them early. When they aren’t there, it just means they haven’t happened yet.